LUCKY NUMBER SEVEN
In this issue, I want to cover sweep picking of minor 7 arpeggios, and how sweep picking can be used with the minor pentatonic scale.
The majority of metal and rock music is in a minor tonality. The minor pentatonic scale, Dorian mode, Phrygian mode, natural minor and melodic minor scales are all used extensively in genres of guitar-based music. The minor 7 arpeggio fits within all of these scale patterns.
Knowing this arpeggio all over the fretboard will be very useful when improvising and composing. Think of each note in the minor 7 arpeg gio as a resolution.
Knowing where these resolution notes sit underneath each scale will allow you to resolve melodies quickly, and even play chromatically if you want to add some dissonance to your solos and riffs. The last exercise takes the tired old pentatonic box shape and turns it into a sweep picking exercise. It may also help you to bridge between the box shapes.
Exercise #1 shows an A minor 7 arpeggio ascending and descending through two octaves throughout the first two bars. The A minor 7 arpeggio is outlining the chord tones of the A minor 7 chord – for example, A, C, E, G.
Bars #3 and #4 outline the natural minor, or A Aeolian scale, using the same one-octave pattern that was used for the arpeggio. The idea here is that you can clearly see the chord tones underneath the scale patterns. This is a very useful technique, as it requires you to only memorise one octave of any arpeggio or scale, and then shift the same pattern two frets and two strings higher to start in the next octave.
Bars #5 and # 6 show the same concept starting on the A note of the fifth string. There is a slight difference in the pattern to compensate for the interval between the G and B strings, but with all four of these bars combined, you have almost the entire fretboard mapped out.
Exercise #1 can also be adapted for the Dorian and Phrygian modes as they both contain a flattened third and seventh scale degree. It will also work with the minor pentatonic scale very easily, as there is only one note’s difference. Add the fourth degree of the scale, and you get a minor pentatonic pattern.
Exercise #2 builds on the idea that we first explore in Exercise #1. The first two bars ascend through the same octave shifting arpeggio pattern as Bar # 1 of Exercise #1, and then descends through the pattern from Bar #3 of Exercise #1. There is no new information here – the idea is to show how these ideas can be bridged.
Bars #3 and #4 of Exercise #2 outline an ascending A minor 7 arpeggio starting on the A string. It could also be played in open position, utilising even more of the fretboard.
Descending through this pattern, we have a new arpeggio shape coming from the C form of the CAGED system. This is a very handy pattern as it outlines the chord tones that sit underneath the three-note-per-string C major scale starting on the eighth fret of the low E string. It also makes sense rhythmically, as it starts and resolves on the first beat of each bar.
Exercise #3 introduces a completely new idea, but still stays in the same key of Exercises #1 and #2. Exercise #3 outlines the A minor pentatonic shape that everyone knows and uses, but shakes things up by making use of an uneven number of notes on each string.
By combining the A minor and C major pentatonic box shapes, we can derive a pattern that can easily be sweep-picked. With three notes on the first string, followed by one note on the next, we can move to the next string with the same up or down stroke – as is outlined in the first two bars of the exercise. This will allow you to sweep the strings, and may help you come up with new phrases altogether.
If anything, this is just a great technical exercise, and may help to bridge between the box shapes that you already use.